State Counsellor discusses preparations for returnees with chief ministers of Kayin, Taninthayi and Mon
State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, in her capacity as Chairperson of the National Central Committee for COVID-19 Prevention, Control and Treatment, held a video conference yesterday from the Presidential Palace in Nay Pyi Taw with chief ministers of Kayin State, Mon State and Taninthayi region.
First, the State Counsellor said the aim of the meeting was to discuss the return of Myanmar migrants from the border; some expected the number of returnees would be about 150,000, while others estimated the number to be 70,000 or 80,000; at present migrant workers have not yet returned in bulk, and that it was a relief for the country; communications and cooperation with the Thai government seem to be good; Kayin State plays a crucial role in this programme as most of the migrant workers have come back home through the Myawady border crossing before heading to the respective regions, while some of them returned through the Taninthayi Region.
Kayin State’s Chief Minister Daw Nann Khin Htway Myint discussed the situation of over 80,000 migrant workers who returned earlier, preparations for quarantine centres for the possible returnees in the next group, the readiness of healthcare workers and preparations made for providing emergency treatments, and donations of INGOs, NGOs and well-wishers for the quarantined persons.
Mon State’s Chief Minister Dr Aye Zan explained facility quarantine and hospital quarantine coordination with the health ministry, installation of ventilators and deployment of medical doctors, effectiveness due to public participation, the first group of returnees under the quarantine, preparations of water and toilet facilities at the quarantine centres, manufacturing and distribution of reusable face masks in rural areas, and healthcare advice for prevention of COVID-19.
Next, Taninthayi Region’s Chief Minister U Myint Maung discussed the return of 6,000 migrant workers in the first group into the region, facility quarantine for them, return to their homes after spending quarantine days, preparation of a list of migrant workers who will be returning into the region through Myawady border, preparations for quarantine centres for the returnees, hotel quarantines for those who will follow guidelines of the Ministry of Health and Sports, water supply for them in summer, donation of well-wishers and civil society organizations to the facility quarantine centres and coordination plans to fulfil the need of public toilets.
In her discussion, the State Counsellor advised assistance from Mon State to the Kayin State in case of a large number of returnees, because there were many quarantine centres in Mon State; spoke about the need for Union spirit among the people; that the returnees were being sent to their respective regions and states due to insufficient quarantine centres in a single area; staying in quarantine at the respective areas would help the returnees live closely with their relatives would also give them moral support; if the number of migrant workers to Kayin State was significantly high, some of them would be sent to Mon State.
She added that home quarantine was not practical in Myanmar, although the developed countries prefer this system to facility quarantine; home quarantine has not been practical due to local conditions since the pandemic occurred in Myanmar; the cost for facility quarantine is significantly high for Myanmar; therefore well-wishers and civil society organizations play a crucial role in this programme.
The State Counsellor also expressed her concern that the people would let down their guard as the COVID-19 outbreak period dragged on; also she was concerned that the people would not follow the guidelines strictly; facility quarantines were very costly and causing burdens for the country; the government’s policy was to accept the returnees, whether the Myanmar migrant workers had gone to foreign countries legally or illegally; however, it was important to report their return as otherwise, it would be dangerous for their communities; illegal Myanmar migrant workers can come back home in the same status of legal workers as both can enjoy the same level of rights; it was also required for Mon State to share mobile toilets with the Taninthayi Region.
She continued to say that the period of COVID-19 cannot be estimated; that Myanmar people were very kind-hearted and generous; the government was relying on public contributions; and that those who were giving assistance to the people at the facility quarantine centres were the common people; all donors were not wealthy persons; some of the people were contributing what they could; it would be impossible for the government to spend a large amount of state budget; as the COVID-19 disease could last for a long time, it was necessary for the people to adopt the spirit of the long-distance runner; wearing a face mask should not be a problem, once it becomes a habit, it would no longer be a problem; it was impossible for the Union Government to distribute free face masks for everyone; and that it would be more suitable to make face masks at home in line with the guidelines of Ministry of Health and Sports.
She added that the report on preparations of Ministry of Health and Sports for reacceptance of Myanmar migrants in line with prevention guidelines should have been received by the states/regions; that this report had outlined in detail what needed to be done; Myanmar had prepared for the outbreak of the COVID-19 disease since early January and that these preparations had been very helpful for the country; since then the government had formed a committee on handling health and economic issues; when the WHO announced the disease as a pandemic, the committee was elevated to a national-level central committee.
The three areas of Kayin, Mon and Taninthayi are geographically related; the number of migrant workers returning through border crossings is expected to be high; the first challenge, like a wave happened in late March with worries about possible disease carriers despite well-made preparations; in the current second challenge, it was estimated that tens of thousands of migrant workers would come back home; however, all of them are not only from Kayin, Mon and Taninthayi, and they would go back to their respective areas; and that these three states/regions were playing a crucial role in this issue; that these three regions would have to prevent the spread of the disease when the returnees are sent to their homes; therefore coordination was important and that the Union government would coordinate to fulfil the requirements; no matter how big the challenge may be, this challenge would be overcome through collaborative efforts; that more trust could be built between the people and the government; currently, with the assistance of the people, we were able to accomplish a lot in Kayin and Mon states and Taninthayi region; from the government side, we must help the people.
In her concluding remarks, the State Counsellor said that it was necessary to tell the people again and again to follow the directives and regulations strictly; that she wanted everyone to cooperate and collaborate with regard to COVID-19 and that she wanted everyone to remember that “we are all of this Union”.